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Die Hardest: A Retrospective – Die Hard 2 (1990)

In anticipation for A Good Day To Die Hard, we’re going to be taking a look back at the first four films in the Die Hard franchise. Today we look at the second film, 1990’s Die Hard 2.

Read our previous entry, Die Hard (1988).

When Die Hard was a huge success, it only made sense that 20th Century Fox would want to churn out a sequel. And churn out one they did, as Die Hard 2 (often coupled with the subtitle, Die Harder) was unleashed upon screens in 1990. Bringing in Finnish director Renny Harlin, fresh off his success of A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master, Die Hard 2 promised to be bigger, bloodier, and better than the original.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

It’s true, Die Hard 2 definitely ramps up the violence factor to eleven. Terrorists have knives stabbed into their eyes, while others are sucked into the propeller of an aircraft.Die Hard 2 also drops more f-bombs than the first film, and adds Dennis Franz in place of Paul Gleason to spar with John McClane. William Atherton returns as Richard Thornburg, as does Bonnie Bedelia as Holly McClane, both trapped on a plane that husband John has to save.

Die Hard 2 Villain

Die Hard 2 tries very much to ape the first movie, and surely opts for a style over substance approach. Whereas the first film had a genuine sense of terror for McClane, this seems to be where superhero John McClane gets his start. Make no mistake, McClane gets his ass handed to him, and has quite a few obstacles blocking him from saving his wife and everyone on board the airplane. But the plot does feel too much like a rehash of something that was already perfected in the first outing. It’s acceptable to have Holly be in trouble again, but Atherton and Reginald Veljohnson’s Sergeant Al Powell feel more like fan service than anything else.

William Sadler’s Colonel Stuart is the standard action villain you expect from these types of films. Granted, Hans Gruber was always going to be a tough act to follow, but Sadler doesn’t do much with Stuart to differentiate him from a standard action villain. It’s John Amos as Major Grant who comes across as memorable, even if he’s not a classic villain. Franco Nero does an admirable job,  and a pre-T2 Robert Patrick shows up for a little bit.

Die Hard 2 Bruce Willis

While bigger didn’t mean better, it definitely meant fun. Die Hard 2 brings that in spades. Yes, this is the Die Hard were Super McClane first shows up, and gone is the sense of realism that sort of grounded the first movie. Willis is let off the leash in this one, and feels very comfortable as the wisecracking ass-kicker we’ve come to love. He takes quite a bit of punishment, and doesn’t get nearly as banged up as he did in the first movie. But even if John McClane sheds his everyman colors, it’s still fun to watch Super McClane take out bad guys and sprout the now famous line before he takes out an airplane with his lighter.

Die Hard 2 may very well be Renny Harlin’s best picture to date. Even if it opts for style over substance, there’s still enough here to make it a good movie, and a hugely entertaining one at that. It also helped kickstart a bunch of Die Hard clones that would litter the early part of the 90’s. None of those imitators came close to eclipsing the first movie, and few match the entertainment value this sequel brings.

It makes Die Hard 2 worth a rewatch, as it seems to get wrongfully accused of being a bad movie. While mimicking the groundbreaking original may not have been ideal, Die Hard 2 brings enough fun and excitement to the table to make it a truly great action film, and a worthy sequel to a classic.

Die Hard 2 Ejection Seat Bruce Willis

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